Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wolverine: Soul of Wilderness

Wolverine.

What comes to mind when you hear or see this word, name, description? I'd dare say it is not what truly exists.

Michigan's state nickname? Evil-spirit? Legend? Phantom? Teeth? Danger? Hell-on-paw-w/-claws?
  • How about the most successfully adapted creature to extreme cold climates imaginable?
  • How about one of the most understudied and/or appreciated animals on the planet?
  • How about the rarest 'actually seen-in-the-wild' animal in North America?
  • How about the living embodiment of the Nike slogan, "Just Do It" ?

Yes, I believe the wolverine embodies all of these and so much more. If you'd like to see more and know more about this amazing creature - got to the PBS.org site and watch the full Nature program, Wolverine: Chasing the Phantom.
I have had a passionate love for these, largest of the weasel family, since I first saw a presentation of one on the old Mutual of Omaha, "Wild Kingdom" - back in the early '60s.

It was a frigid north woods winter in the late '60s, where I had the extremely rare opportunity - and privilege - to encounter and watch a pair of wolverines - in the wild - for over an hour. No camera. Nothing but my eyes and memory to record the experience. The sensation of that memory still sends chills up my spine every time I think of it; which is quite often.

I was never taken serious when I told the story of the encounter. I had no proof; only my story. Wolverines had not been verified as having been seen in that region in over 40 years. Yet, over the years reports of sightings have been persistent. Recently, with the advent of imaging technology, i.e., Trailcams, researchers are seeing verified proof of their return.
Many say the wolf, is the symbol that gives the wild in wilderness it's heart. I maintain that the wolverine is what gives wilderness its wild soul.

If the wolverine had a theme song, you'd likely find them hummin' Bosephus' - A Country Boy Can Survive - through a snarl, oozing attitude that would rock-the-world of a grizzly bear. Hiding their complex nature as a very social animal, has been a successful key in their survival.


But, for all the survival ability it embodies, the wolverine has one major flaw in their arsenal: they are heavily dependent on cold - really COLD - temperatures to survive. As the earths polar and altitude environments heat up, dependable cold temperature, heavy snows and long winter seasons are becoming an ever increasing problem across their more populated range: the Rocky Mountain glacial fields.

To loose the wolverine would be to loose the soul of the wild.

I -for one- am in total agreement with Aldo Leopold, as he poignantly announces in the first line of his introduction to the book, that has become the repository of his writings, A Sand County Almanac - containing - as the last chapter - what I believe was his most important essay - The Land Ethic,


"There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot. These essays are the delights and dilemmas of one who cannot."

I too, am one who cannot.

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